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Jeff Rowe
Jeff Rowe
Jeffrey Rowe has more than 40 years of experience in all aspects of industrial design, mechanical engineering, and manufacturing. On the publishing side, he has written well over 1,000 articles for CAD, CAM, CAE, and other technical publications, as well as consulting in many capacities in the … More »

Bricsys Insights: ACAD to BCAD

April 27th, 2017 by Jeff Rowe

I spent this week in the beautiful city of Ghent, Belgium for a series of company and product overviews at Bricsys at an event the company called Bricsys Insights.

For me, this was an introduction to and company and product line I had heard about, but didn’t have much knowledge about. This week that all changed for the better.

As a company, Bricsys has taken on several iterations over the years since it was founded in 2002, and has emerged today as a real player in the CAD markets for both architectural and mechanical design applications. The company currently has 130-140 employees, the majority being developers, so it is efficiently run and product focused.

The company’s flagship product, BricsCAD is offered at three different functional tiers and price points for perpetual licenses — Classic (focused primarily on 2D design, $550); Pro (adds 3D modeling, access to all programming tools and third party applications, $680); and Platinum (adds advanced features such as 3D constraints, assembly modeling, and access to optional BIM and Sheet Metal modules, $1,020). Regardless of tier, an additional $200 provides priority support and one major upgrade. Bricsys claims to have more than 1,200 third-party apps running on top of the BricsCAD core product for mechanical design, architecture, GIS, etc., as well as customers in 80 countries.

BricsCAD is based on the Teigha kernel that provides it with a high level of compatibility with Autodesk’s .dwg file format.

The .dwg file format became the de facto standard for CAD because Autodesk was successful in making AutoCAD the most popular CAD software. In addition, a large community of developers built thousands of commercial applications on top of AutoCAD, adding a wealth of vertical knowledge and expertise to the platform.

This was only possible through a series of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) that were made available by Autodesk for this developer community. Deciding to offer an alternative but equivalent platform, Bricsys set out to develop BricsCAD and enable every AutoCAD-based application to be ported to it without rewriting the code.

The Teigha binaries enabled Bricsys to develop a powerful alternative DWG-based CAD software and offer a real choice to users and application developers.

Bricscad offers the complete core functionality of a .dwg-based CAD software for the end-user and has all of the APIs required to enable the porting of existing .dwg-based applications using the same source code.

Erik De Keyser, Chief Executive Officer of Bricsys said, “Any product requiring DWG compatibility will need Teigha, the software development platform for CAD and other technical graphics applications. At Bricsys we would have to rewrite our software if we did not have Teigha. Between one third and one half of BricsCAD is based on it. If we did not have access to the Teigha platform then we would constantly be rewriting the DWG files and formats. It would be a crazy situation.”

Bricsys can underprice its main competitor because it keeps overheads low and focuses its efforts on technical innovation and business efficiency.

To address MCAD challenges, Bricsys started to get serious about 3D in 2011, and does things differently with an approach that combines history-based and direct modeling. This approach lets designers be designers, not programmers, with the assistance of BricsCAD’s unique Design Intent Tool Palette.

In coming weeks, once I get the software installed, I’ll provide detailed looks at BricsCAD Platinum (the high-end core product),  BricsCAD Sheet Metal, and BricsCAD BIM (for architectural building information modeling).

Based on price and compatibility alone, I want to experience myself if users of ACAD (AutoCAD) could truly transform their current workflows with BCAD (BricsCAD).

Great week with great people as hosts providing a lot of information on its products that I wasn’t too familiar with, but look forward to exploring more in the future.

Disclosure: Bricsys paid for travel, hotel accommodations, and some meals for the event.

Consumer Products Continue To Take Hit As Autodesk Sells Pixlr

Just about six years ago, Autodesk announced that it had completed the acquisition of Pixlr, a popular free online and social image creating, collecting, editing, and sharing service. This week the company announced that Pixlr had been sold to 123RF for an undisclosed amount.

The Pixlr service was started in Sweden in 2008 and provided accessible tools for non-professionals to create, edit, and share images online and socially via platforms like Facebook. At the time, the Pixlr acquisition enhanced Autodesk’s ability to provide image editing for its consumer products, such as the SketchBook product line.

Pixlr has become one of the most popular photo editors, especially for mobile purposes. As a matter of fact, I use it at least weekly for the production of this blog

Why Autodesk is selling Pixlr now is not entirely clear, but may be due to the fact that it still requires Adobe Flash technology to work, and since the Carl Bass departure, the company seems to have less patience for so-called consumer products, such as Pixlr, 123D Design, and others. Hopefully, 123RF acquired Pixlr because it is interested in updating it.

123RF is part of Imagine Group, a company that is seeking to create an ecosystem of creative products to compete with Adobe. A tall task, to say the least.

With this latest sell-off, Autodesk is departing from its free or low cost design “consumer” products for the common man espoused by Carl Bass. Well, it was nice while it lasted.

Arrange A Video Interview With Us At Upcoming Conferences and Shows!

MCADCafe has a busy trade show run coming up the next couple of months, including:

If your company is attending any of these events and you want to arrange for a video interview that will appear on MCADCafe, contact me at or call me at 719.221.1867. We can also provide customized marketing packages so you can get the most positive exposure for your interview.

Hope to see you in person in coming weeks as we go on the road!

Hexagon’s Recent Ups & Downs Update

April 20th, 2017 by Jeff Rowe

A lot has gone on in the past couple months at metrology giant Hexagon AB, so let’s have a look.

For starters, Hexagon AB, announced recently that it was acquiring MSC Software Corp. for $834 million cash. While not quite as big, the acquisition is Hexagon’s largest deal since it bought Intergraph for $2.1 billion in 2010.

MSC Software is the the company that has brought products that include Nastran, Patran, Marc, and Apex to market. For more than 50 years MSC has been a leading provider of CAE solutions, primarily simulation software for virtual product and manufacturing process development, and was one of the first 10 commercial software companies.

As I noted when the acquisition was first announced, acquiring MSC provides Hexagon with a strong foothold in the competitive simulation/analysis market with MSC’s diverse portfolio of CAE applications.

Hexagon: Shaping Smart Change

As it has with all recent acquisitions, Hexagon plans for MSC to run as an independent business unit within the Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence (MI) division, that focuses on automotive, aerospace, machinery, consumer electronics, and other discrete manufacturing markets, getting close to offering comprehensive end-to-end solutions in these diverse workflows. About the only link missing is a true CAD component and I can think of several possible targets for closing this gap.

Process-oriented solutions are essential for manufacturers, and MSC’s applications definitely address design and engineering processes through simulation and analysis.

Read the rest of Hexagon’s Recent Ups & Downs Update

COFES 2017 Tackles Complexity, Looks Ahead To Future

April 13th, 2017 by Jeff Rowe

I just returned from Scottsdale, Arizona after a great week at the annual Congress on the Future of Engineering Software (COFES) event.

Over the years I’ve attended probably 8-10 of these unique events, and they have all been a bit different, but I have always come away with new insights and perspectives on engineering software.

The keynotes are always thought provoking and the roundtable discussions and general conversations are stimulating, because they often provide food for thought and questions for further investigation rather than just simple answers.

One of the aspects I especially appreciate about COFES is that the company behind the conference, Cyon Research, strictly forbids blatant “selling” by attendees. For the most this request is honored, noted a few exceptions, but I ignored them. This event is meant to be more a meeting of the minds than an opportunity to capitalize on a captive audience.

This year’s theme was on the many facets of transformative complexity and how to understand it and take advantage of the benefits it can present.

At COFES, Everyone Is Encouraged (and Expected) To Participate 

The growth of complexity in everything we do is presenting us with new and difficult challenges, from our constantly changing business environment, to conflicting requirements of more simplicity (to the customer) in products that require more complexity to deliver. New phenomena result from complexity, often requiring consideration of things that were not previously an issue. The demands of IoT, the emergence of additive manufacturing. And it’s not just products: emergent properties of complexity occur in processes, in IT, in business models, in politics, and in economies.

Read the rest of COFES 2017 Tackles Complexity, Looks Ahead To Future

ESPRIT CAM Software: 21st Century CAM

April 6th, 2017 by Jeff Rowe

A few weeks ago at SOLIDWORKS World, I got reacquainted with a CAM company that previously I had only limited experience with – DP Technology. After talking with Don Davies, DP Technology’s VP of Americas, I came away from the event impressed with the company, as well as where DP Technology and its ESPIRIT product line are heading as ESPRIT CAM Software.

DP Technology Corp is a privately held company co-founded in 1982 by Daniel Frayssinet and Paul Ricard. The company gets its name from the first names of the co-founders – (D)an and (P)aul. The company’s corporate headquarters is in Camarillo, California. The rest of the company is structured by function with offices in France, Germany, India, Italy, China, and Japan. DP Technology is the developer of the diverse ESPRIT CAM system sold and supported via the company’s regional offices and its network of resellers throughout the world. ESPRIT has also developed close partnerships with several leading milling, turning, and wire-EDM machine tool manufacturers, such as Okuma, Mazak, DMG Mori, Citizen, Mitsubishi, GF AgiCharmilles, and Sodick.

Read the rest of ESPRIT CAM Software: 21st Century CAM

Hardware Review: HP Z2 Mini Provides Big Performance In A Small Package

March 30th, 2017 by Jeff Rowe

As has been the case for several years, not all computer users need a workstation-class machine, but many do, especially with graphics-oriented and computationally intensive applications, such as MCAD, FEA, and animation. However, high-powered workstations for graphic-intensive applications can come with a price premium. So, you can really pay a relatively high price for higher levels of performance, but is often worth it. There are exceptions, however, and the HP Z2 Mini workstation offers the best of both worlds – a versatile machine with excellent performance at a reasonable price.

I’d classify the HP Z2 Mini as a mid- to high-level machine that provides just about everything most customers would need in a desktop engineering workstation. Then there’s added benefit of the small footprint, which can be huge in a tight work environment.

The HP Z2 Mini Workstation

Read the rest of Hardware Review: HP Z2 Mini Provides Big Performance In A Small Package

Xometry: A Different Approach To On-Demand Manufacturing

March 23rd, 2017 by Jeff Rowe

At software conferences it’s always fun to catch up with old industry acquaintances, but is more interesting to strike up conversations with new companies with innovative ideas. That very thing happened a few weeks ago at SOLIDWORKS World 2017 when we got introduced to Xometry, a company committed to bringing manufacturing back to the U.S. with its software platform for building a reliable and scalable manufacturing program. It employs a unique machine-learning approach that provides its customers with optimal manufacturing capabilities at the best price based on parameters input by customers.

Founded in 2014, Xometry is hoping to transform American manufacturing through a proprietary software platform that provides on-demand manufacturing to a diverse customer base, ranging from startups to Fortune 100 companies. The platform provides an efficient way to source high-quality custom parts, with 24/7 access to instant pricing, expected lead time and manufacturability feedback that recommends best processes and practices. With more than 100 manufacturing partners, the manufacturing capabilities include CNC machining, 3D printing, sheet metal forming and fabrication, and urethane casting with over 200 materials. Xometry’s 4,000+ customers include General Electric, MIT Lincoln Laboratory, NASA, and the United States Army.

CNC Machining and How Xometry Is Different

Read the rest of Xometry: A Different Approach To On-Demand Manufacturing

The Continuing Importance of GPUs For More Than Just Pretty Pictures

March 16th, 2017 by Jeff Rowe

While it seems that central processing units (CPUs) get all the glory for computing horsepower, graphical processing units (GPUs) have become the processor of choice for many types of intensively parallel computations.

As the boundaries of computing are pushed in areas such as speech recognition and natural language processing, image and pattern recognition, text and data analytics, and other complex areas, researchers continue to look for new and better ways to extend and expand computing capabilities. For decades this has been accomplished via high-performance computing (HPC) clusters, which use huge amounts of expensive processing power to solve problems.

Researchers at the University of Illinois had studied the possibility of using graphics processing units (GPUs) in desktop supercomputers to speed processing of tasks such as image reconstruction, but it was a computing group at the University of Toronto that demonstrated a way to significantly advance computer vision using GPUs. By plugging in GPUs, previously used primarily for graphics, it became possible to achieve huge performance gains on computing neural networks, and these gains were reflected in superior results in computer vision.

Read the rest of The Continuing Importance of GPUs For More Than Just Pretty Pictures

A Conversation With Oboe Wu On the Future Of SOLIDWORKS MBD

March 9th, 2017 by Jeff Rowe

A few weeks ago we were in Los Angeles attending SOLIDWORKS World 2017. As usual, it was an overwhelming whirlwind of people, sights, sounds, and information while it was taking place, but has come into better focus now that some time has transpired for letting all of it sink in and make sense. One of the things I wanted to especially sort out was SOLIDWORKS’ take on model-based definition (MBD), where it stands today, and where it might be headed in the future

The last day of SOLIDWORKS World 2017 I sat down with Oboe Wu, SOLIDWORKS MBD Product Manager, and we discussed several aspects of MBD. Our discussion on SOLIDWORKS MBD centered around the creation and consumption of MBD data (that are tied to customers’ workflows), and the fact that MBD is transitioning from the “why implement” phase to the “how to implement” phase.

In the video below, SOLIDWORKS MBD Product Manager, Oboe Wu, discusses how to eliminate conversion of 3D data to 2D documents and fully leverage 3D design data throughout an organization and partners to reduce redundant tasks. He explains MBD from SOLIDWORKS’ point of view.

What is SOLIDWORKS Model-Based Definition?

Read the rest of A Conversation With Oboe Wu On the Future Of SOLIDWORKS MBD

3D InterOp Suite: Meeting the Challenges of 3D Data Translation and Reuse for Smart Manufacturing

March 2nd, 2017 by Jeff Rowe

Since it began in 1986, Spatial has developed software components – modular software packages that perform a set of specific and related functions. This class of software is designed to work as a functional component of a larger application, such as CAD, CAM, CAE, Additive Manufacturing (AM), and Building Information Modeling (BIM). The goal of component software is to standardize the interfaces between software utility functions so that they can work together efficiently and cohesively.

In developing its software components, Spatial has always realized, too, that the best engineering software excels at optimizing imported data for data reuse. Spatial understands that design data reuse is much more than just data exchange.

Read the rest of 3D InterOp Suite: Meeting the Challenges of 3D Data Translation and Reuse for Smart Manufacturing

APSX Bringing Injection Molding To The Desktop

February 23rd, 2017 by Jeff Rowe

It wasn’t all that long ago that manufacturing machines, such as 3D printers and CNC mills were relegated to the factory floor because of their size and tendency to need or produce undesirable compounds, such as coolants, smoke, chips, solvents, etc. Today, however, there are a number of desktop 3D printers and milling machines available. Until relatively recently, though, one of the major manufacturing processes that hadn’t appeared on the desktop was injection molding. That’s about to change with the advent of the APSX-PIM desktop plastic molding machine from Advanced Production Systems (APSX).

Injection molding machines are known for being large and expensive machines that require significant infrastructure, steep learning curve, and high maintenance. For these and other reasons most individual makers and small businesses don’t have access to an injection molding machine, so APSX decided to make one that could be used by organizations with budget and space constraints.

Read the rest of APSX Bringing Injection Molding To The Desktop

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